FTSE rises as investors eye FOMC, shrugs off GDP data

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The blue-chip index closed up on Wednesday, shrugging off weak UK GDP figures showing Britain slipped back into recession and disappointing first-quarter results from drugmaker Glaxosmithkline , as investors awaited results from a key U.S. Federal Reserve meeting.

Most market attention remains focused on a release by the U.S. Federal Reserve of its latest round of quarterly forecasts due at 1800 GMT, and comments by Chairman Ben Bernanke to follow in a news conference scheduled for 1815 GMT.

Investors are waiting to hear whether the Fed Chairman hints of further monetary easing.

Early gains on the FTSE 100 <.FTSE> index were led by a rise on Wall Street, which opened up almost 1 percent as better-than-expected results from Apple boosted equity markets.

That helped the UK's blue-chip index shrug off weaker-than expected GDP data, which showed growth in the British economy declined for a second successive quarter.

The positive nature of Apple's first-quarter results after hours (on Tuesday) has encouraged short-term investors at least to overlook continuing travails of the euro zone, which is a region the markets can't get past because the crisis continues to escalate but there are periodic sideshows that allow them to overlook it and today's is the FOMC meeting, said Jeremy Batstone-Carr chief economist and strategist at Charles Stanley.

The index closed marginally higher, up 0.16 percent or 9.4 points at 5,718.89.

Firmer miners <.FTNMX1770> also provided support for the blue chips, adding around 12 points to the index as investor appetite for risk-sensitive stocks returned, with copper prices holding steady.

India-focused miner Vedanta led risers on the index with a 4.3 percent gain, while Xstrata and Rio Tinto gave the index a boost with gains of 3 and 2 percent respectively.

Banks <.FTNMX8350> gave up much of their daily gains before paring back to add 6 points to the index following comments from French presidential candidate Francois Hollande towards the close.

We saw some comments from the socialist candidate Francois Hollande that France would not ratify the fiscal compact, so it (the fall in banking stocks) is probably worries about the limbering Franco-German clash if he does take power, said Chris Beauchamp, market analyst at IG Index.

DRUGMAKER WOES

Shares in Britain's biggest drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline were among the top fallers, with a 3 percent dip, after the firm released disappointing first-quarter results, insisting its $13 a share offer was generous and Chief Executive Andrew Witty played down the possibility of increasing the price.

The drugmaker also said its $2.6 billion bid for long-time partner Human Genome Sciences was full and fair and it was the only obvious owner for the U.S. biotechnology firm.

Ex-dividend factors, stocks trading without their dividend entitlements, accounted for most of the top blue chip fallers, with Centrica closing down 3.8 percent, Man Group shedding 1.9 percent, Reed Elsevier faltering 2.6 percent and Tesco losing 2.6 percent on the day.

Apple's strong performance also boosted its chip designer ARM Holdings , which saw its share price rise 4.2 percent, initially topping the list of FTSE 100 risers before paring back for a 1.1 percent gain on the day.

The British software company, was upgraded by broker Jefferies to hold from underperform on valuation grounds.

(Editing by Ruth Pitchford)

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